When the promo for Dane Cook's most recent Comedy Central special, Isolated Incident, promises "a Dane Cook you've never seen before," it sounds more like an assurance than a boast. Cook has been crowned a cultural demagogue, in large part due to the considerable virulence of his vanity-drenched movie roles in Good Luck Chuck and My Best Friend's Girl, as well as for his cocky, hyperkinetic standup style—not to mention accusations of joke thievery. Conversely, he's also one of the most popular comics in the country, with stadium-choking legions of fans whose outsized enthusiasm is akin to the slavish devotion of Dave Matthews Band followers, another group that serves as a lightning rod for cool-kid ire. But while D.C. and the DMB appeal to overlapping demographics, Cook's true cultural counterpart is Larry the Cable Guy, another divisive comic who inspires equal parts ardor and rancor with his pandering, frequently lowbrow approach. But the Larry the Cable Guy of the frat-boy set is turning over a new leaf, or so he claims, inspired to write more introspective, substantial material after a series of personal tragedies, including losing both his parents to cancer and engaging in a legal battle with his now-imprisoned former manager and half-brother. Cook is a sound performer, but incisive material has never been his strong suit. Judging from Isolated Incident, the new and improved Dane Cook is a notch sharper, but not all that different from the old one, which is to say undeserving of fanaticism of either variety.
Sat., June 13, 7 p.m., 2009